A few weeks ago, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor published his list of bills the House will attempt to get through before the August recess. The transportation reauthorization was not among them.
Rumor has it that House leadership has put the kibosh on Transportation Committee Chair John Mica’s plans to get a bill out of committee and to the House floor in July. Supposedly, House Speaker John Boehner has told Mica not to mark up a bill, since it would just languish without a vote anyway.
This information came to us from a trustworthy source who is a few levels removed from the actual decision makers. (Streetsblog has a request in with Mica’s office to confirm.) Because it’s a compelling rumor that makes a lot of sense in the current political context, please indulge us as we run through the possibilities, but do take it with a grain of salt.
All will be clearer next week, when Mica either introduces his bill or he doesn’t — though even that won’t tell us everything, because introducing it and then keeping it stalled in committee would also likely be an acceptable option for leadership — as long as it doesn’t come to the floor.
All this is happening, of course, against the backdrop of the debt ceiling talks, as they rage (or whimper) on, with no solution in sight before an economic meteor (known as “default”) hits the planet. House Republicans are still saying they won’t accept any new taxes, leaving spending cuts as the only way to cut $1 trillion from the deficit. Their recipe for transportation? About a 33 percent cut, bringing transportation in line with current balance in the Highway Trust Fund. (The new formula bars spending based on anticipated revenues.) There’s not a state in the union that wouldn’t feel these cuts, deeply.
So, if it’s true that Boehner has said no to the reauthorization, it actually makes a lot of sense. The House can’t pass a bill with such low levels of spending – there wouldn’t be any support for it. But the Republicans can’t possibly introduce a bill that violates their own spending principles right now, as they’re digging their heels in on spending cuts as a pre-condition to raising the debt ceiling.